Brutal Attack on Freedom of Speech
Ananta Bijoy Das was a Bangladeshi blogger, known for advocating science, freethinking, and secularism. On May 12th, in the northeastern Bangladeshi city Sylhet, he was hacked to death by four unknown assailants for writing a online piece critical of Islam. Das’ murder was third this year. Earlier, 27 year old blogger Washiqur Rahman, who worked at a travel agency in Dhaka was killed by two men with meat cleavers and knifes. In February, Bangladesh-born American blogger, Avjit Roy was killed with machetes in Dhaka. All three atheist bloggers of Bangladesh have paid life as the price for expressing their views online.
In fact, in the last two years, several bloggers & writers is reported to have met mysterious deaths in the country. Last year, ‘Reporters Without Borders’ described about a group ‘Defenders of Islam in Bangladesh’, which had published a ‘hit list’ of bloggers, activists & writers, who were thought be opposing Islam. The list is said to have 84 names, most of them secularists. Nine of those were murdered and several are being attacked. Ananta Bijoy Das, although criticized fundamentalism in all religions, including Islam, is mostly known for championing science. In 2006, he was bestowed with ‘Rationalist Award’ for his courageous interest in spreading humanist & secular ideals.
Since 2013, militant violence against critics of Islam has seen a sudden acceleration. The government has also censored most of the blogs that are express critical views on religion, but many activists continue to spread their messages through social-media platform like Facebook. Although, 90 percent of Bangladesh population is Muslim, secularism and freedom of expression has a central place in the country’s history. The country was known for its love for literature & expressive tradition. In the past, Bangladesh had experienced some problems with Islamic terrorism, but by large has successfully managed to counter the growth of terrorist networks. But, damaged economic growth and emergence of ideological assassinations has marred the secularist country’s efforts.
Activists also blame the negligence of law enforcement agencies behind such brutal slayings. The law men find it hard to round up these small cells of radicalized men, and even if they are caught, the lengthy trials give ample time for the religious extremists to dodge the incrimination. The death of three bloggers has left the law enforcers in the dark, and they are only speculating about the killers’ affiliation. Al Qaeda’s affiliate in South Asia has claimed responsibility for the killings of ‘blasphemers’ in the region. Police suspect five banned extremist groups including JMB. These groups are also aiming tp establish Shariah Law in the country. The killings to block the out-spoken voices have only made it hard for Bangladesh to win the conflict against radical Islamist violence.